She was tall and elegant; beautifully dressed, in the happiest combination of simplicity and splendor. A light summer veil hung over her face. She lifted it, and made her apologies for disturbing the gentlemen over their wine, with the unaffected ease and grace of a highly-bred woman.
“Pray accept my excuses for this intrusion. I am ashamed to disturb you. One look at the room will be quite enough.”
Thus far she had addressed Mr. Delamayn, who happened to be nearest to her. Looking round the room her eye fell on Mr. Vanborough. She started, with a loud exclamation of astonishment. "You!" she said. “Good Heavens! who would have thought of meeting you here?”
Mr. Vanborough, on his side, stood petrified.
“Lady Jane!” he exclaimed. “Is it possible?”
He barely looked at her while she spoke. His eyes wandered guiltily toward the window which led into the garden. The situation was a terrible one—equally terrible if his wife discovered Lady Jane, or if Lady Jane discovered his wife. For the moment nobody was visible on the lawn. There was time, if the chance only offered—there was time for him to get the visitor out of the house. The visitor, innocent of all knowledge of the truth, gayly offered him her hand.
“I believe in mesmerism for the first time,” she said. “This is an instance of magnetic sympathy, Mr. Vanborough. An invalid friend of mine wants a furnished house at Hampstead. I undertake to find one for her, and the day I select to make the discovery is the day you select for dining with a friend. A last house at Hampstead is left on my list—and in that house I meet you. Astonishing!” She turned to Mr. Delamayn. “I presume I am addressing the owner of the house?” Before a word could be said by either of the gentlemen she noticed the garden. “What pretty grounds! Do I see a lady in the garden? I hope I have not driven her away.” She looked round, and appealed to Mr. Vanborough. “Your friend’s wife?” she asked, and, on this occasion, waited for a reply.
In Mr. Vanborough’s situation what reply was possible?
Mrs. Vanborough was not only visible—but audible—in the garden; giving her orders to one of the out-of-door servants with the tone and manner which proclaimed the mistress of the house. Suppose he said, “She is not my friend’s wife?” Female curiosity would inevitably put the next question, “Who is she?” Suppose he invented an explanation? The explanation would take time, and time would give his wife an opportunity of discovering Lady Jane. Seeing all these considerations in one breathless moment, Mr. Vanborough took the shortest and the boldest way out of the difficulty. He answered silently by an affirmative inclination of the head, which dextrously turned Mrs. Vanborough into to Mrs. Delamayn without allowing Mr. Delamayn the opportunity of hearing it.